To the editor:
The white nationalist sentiments stoked by a litany of statements, tweets and even executive orders from our president, targeting immigrants, is the apparent backdrop of many of the mass shootings we've seen in the last two years.
Political swirling from those opposing the president complete the picture of a dangerous condition of conflicting sentiments and leanings that cannot be contained by civil discourse.
Mental health care in this country is in a crisis state, as millions of undiagnosed or under-treated individuals are no longer easily reachable by health workers due to limitations of resources. Many of those limits are imposed by insurance companies, through a powerful lobby, unwilling to pay for a variety of treatments.
Many demented individuals , under-insured and under-served, are sown into the fabric of our communities. When you add to these conditions the specter of substance abuse with the unbridled scourge of the opioid crisis, our communities face a massive security threat. I see people in public places today in mental that I rarely witnessed when growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Mass shootings are also based in deliberate acts of terrorism by marginalized people who are of sound mind but devoid of morality. Many project "manifestos" and agendas hearkening to a form of civil discord known as anarchy.
The headlines about the causes of the shootings of Aug. 3 and 4 in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, almost entirely focus on their political underpinnings. There are also discussions of mental health care lapses.
The solution is gun control robust enough to overcome the failures of our politics and health care system. Those defending their political leanings provide the faux argument that “it’s not gun control, it’s health care that’s the problem.” If we continue to be held hostage to this ridiculous notion, many thousands of innocent people will die.
New Zealand offers an attainable solution. In April, one month after the shootings at two mosques where 50 worshipers were murdered in Christchurch, its parliament ushered in the first of a series of initiatives to dramatically reduce gun violence.
The first act was the simplest — outright ban of assault weapons and all mechanical devices to enhance their deadliness. To follow are initiatives bandied about for years here, such as background checks, restrictions to access, physical security measures and so forth.
New Zealanders have not struggled, as we have since the Sandy Hook tragedy seven years ago, to address the problem. Our troubles began with the expiration in 2004 of a key piece of legislation, the federal assault weapons ban. It applied to 118 models of firearms defined as “military weapons that can either fire continuously or in short bursts with a single trigger.”
Now is the time to reauthorize this law and dramatically expand it to include mechanical devices that enhance rapid firing. Phasing in strong security measures such as background checks and cross-agency communication in sweeping fashion are essential parallel policies too.
We cannot wait for people with mental illness to be adequately cared for, nor a future election cycle to bring in politicians who talk nicer.